The Clone Wars Season 2 Episode 22: Lethal Trackdown
Season Two of The Clone Wars has come to an end, with one of the best episodes of the series so far. The Boba Fett arc came to a close, leaving the fates of Boba and Aurra equally uncertain. We saw much more of the Plo Koon/Ahsoka relationship that we've glimpsed before. An old Weequay friend even made a return in this episode, and he ended up doing more good than harm for the first time in the whole series. Lethal Trackdown was anything but a letdown, and the TCW team couldn't have picked a better way to end the season.
Let's start with the sights and sounds. The lighting in Aurra's ship at the beginning of the episode was quite ominous; it fit perfectly with the mood in the ship. Another visually remarkable element of this episode flew by so quickly that I'm sure some people missed it: the bounty hunters ejected the lifeless body of Commander Ponds as they flew through space. That moment helped crystallize the hunters' deadly intent, and apart from that, it was just a stunning shot. At the end of the first half of the episode, as Ahsoka and Plo Koon descended into the Coruscant underworld, we got a fantastic shot of their speeder slowly dropping into a seemingly-endless black abyss. Thematically, that shot spoke to the darkness that lay beneath the gleaming Coruscant surface; indeed, the pair of Jedi would find trouble waiting for them at the bottom of that descent.
The underbelly of Coruscant itself was the most stand-out visual element of the episode. Too often we're either in sterile government or Jedi environments or relatively un-vibrant battlefield wastelands. The underworld is very different, from the colorful posters on the walls to the people wandering about to the sweeping shots that show how expansive the lower levels are. Even the little things like the "passport inspector lady" were nice touches. The environment was so rich, with a lot of color and vibrancy to supplement the plot taking place in the foreground. Also exotic was the bar music on Florrum. The whole experience in that bar seemed to draw directly from Chalmun's Cantina on Tatooine, and not just because of the plot: the Florrum bar had a very similar look, albeit more futuristic and with more flashy lighting.
The conclusion of the Boba Fett arc gave us -- appropriately enough -- a lot of character exposition for young Boba. At the beginning of this episode, Boba's conversation with Kilian spoke volumes about the depth of his commitment. The discussion reminded me of the young man's vulnerability even after all he's done. Boba looks away as Aurra starts attacking Kilian, which suggests that he hasn't yet come to terms with his new lifestyle. When Aurra chastises him for refusing to shoot Ponds, you can tell that he's seriously reconsidering this mission. Boba backed out of killing the clone because he still wasn't sure that this was the right way to go about things, and Aurra's scolding only made him more resentful of her and the pressure she's putting on him.
Boba's character continued to grow away from Aurra and her group throughout the episode. He seemed particularly displeased when she shot Castas. As the Klatooinian crumpled, Boba recoiled in disgust, and we heard more of that angelic music that has become the theme for Boba's transformation. His frustration with Aurra comes to a head when she abandons him to the Jedi. Granted, he didn't exactly convert to the Republic side, but he was definitely disillusioned with Aurra and her ilk at that moment. Boba's fate at the end of the episode was unclear, and I've heard some complaints about that. Personally, I don't think they could have resolved his fate in the time they had left after the plot's climax. It was a good choice to have him escorted away. He had been captured, and there was no time (or way) to have him escape, so what else could they do but [supposedly] imprison him? After a shift in perspective resulting from Aurra's betrayal, the mystery of Boba's life continues.
Aurra Sing was fantastic in this episode, due in no small part to Jaime King's continued voice acting excellence. She is a commanding presence around her fellow bounty hunters, and as if we didn't already know that she meant business, she killed two fairly-important characters in this episode alone. The execution of Commander Ponds was pretty violent. You could tell that Aurra was growing increasingly frustrated with Boba's reticence to kill people; she was planning on further hardening Boba by having him kill Ponds, and it annoyed her to have to do it herself.
I liked seeing Aurra listening in on Castas's conversation. She was very smart to not trust Castas after he resigned from her group. Apart from being a capable fighter, Aurra's also cognizant of the shifting allegiances in her group, and she's always ready to deal with anyone in order to accomplish her goal. She was positively cold-blooded when she took out Castas; the way he flew back against the communicator made it all the more disturbing, as did the dead silence that reigned in the bar for a few seconds after Castas's corpse hit the floor. As we saw later in the episode, Aurra's reputation grows with every kill.
I initially found it interesting that Aurra abandoned Boba, especially after making it clear that she would do anything to help him accomplish his goals of revenge. After thinking about it, I realized that Aurra never really cared about Boba; she wanted to help him so that he would work for her. At this point in Star Wars, she's much more experienced and powerful than Boba. If she'd helped Boba kill Mace, he would have been indebted to her, and she would have gained an ally with a lot of potential. When she saw him slowly turning away from her group, she realized that the end of their partnership was fast approaching, and when the Jedi had her cornered, she knew she had to sacrifice her control over Boba in order to stay out of Republic custody.
For the record, I'm pretty sure that Aurra's not dead. If Dave Filoni and his team wanted that explosion to be Aurra's end, they would have made it clearer that the crash had actually killed her. I think it would be a big mistake for such a tremendous character to go out so anticlimactically, and from what I've seen on this show thus far, the TCW team does not make big mistakes.
I was pleased to see Hondo the Weequay bounty hunter return in this episode. His relationship with Aurra brought a new angle to both their characters. We're not used to seeing Aurra treat anyone like her equal, and we're equally new to the idea of Hondo having a romantic past. His remark about Boba ("Not mine, I take it?") gave that much more color to his rough personality. I also enjoyed hearing about Jango from Hondo, who apparently knew the clone template from past jobs. The fact that these hunters often work together impresses me, because there's more to being a successful criminal than striking out on your own. The whole point of forming teams is to play to the strong points of every participant, and I was glad to know that Hondo and Aurra had respect for each other's abilities. I really enjoyed Hondo's continued remarks about "honor." At first he seemed to be referring to honor among thieves, but that changed at the end of the episode when he told Boba to help the Jedi find the hostages. As we saw when Aurra first met up with Hondo, he had serious reservations about fighting the Jedi again. Perhaps he's reconsidering his stance on them and their work.
Boba and Aurra comprised a lot of this episode's action and excitement, but I also really enjoyed seeing Ahsoka and Plo Koon work together. We really haven't seen enough of Plo Koon in The Clone Wars, and this episode did a lot to resolve that problem. He's such a phenomenal character, particularly when he's teaching Ahsoka. I can definitely see why Filoni always wants to put the Kel Dor Jedi Master in the series. I liked that Plo recognized Ahsoka's inheritance of Anakin's "lack of subtlety," because it made me wonder how Ahsoka would have turned out differently had she been apprenticed to the Kel Dor instead of the Chosen One. The way Plo Koon was portrayed as the wise, almost Obi-Wan-esque Jedi was awesome, and his adventure with Ahsoka in the depths of Coruscant had strong Obi-Wan/Anakin EU vibes.
Plo Koon's interaction with the barkeep was cool, despite being a relatively minor scene. It showed how the general public -- not the prim and proper Coruscanti elite -- viewed these "keepers of the peace." Another Jedi interaction with the "commoners" turned out to be slightly tenser: Ahsoka's near-fight with the Twi'lek and the Weequay. It started with her eavesdropping through the Force, which in itself was a cool scene. It didn't seem important at first, despite being a cool use of Jedi powers and a nice little look at the layperson's problems. Of course, they needed to keep the episode flowing, so Ahsoka's Force espionage quickly led to a big discovery for the Jedi. And because Ahsoka can never get seem to escape trouble, she had to deal with those two criminals in the middle of a crowded bar. I thought they would flee when Ahsoka and Plo Koon ignited their lightsabers (more on that in a second), but apparently that bar was full of very brave -- or very angry -- denizens. Plo Koon drawing his lightsaber to defend Ahsoka was one of the most obvious ANH homages in the whole series; I know I wasn't the only one who flashed back (or forward) to a similar incident to Chalmun's Cantina.
I really enjoyed seeing Plo Koon as the hostage negotiator. He must have known that he could never hope to get Aurra to back down, but I saw his true motive as soon as Boba put the blaster to his head. He knew Aurra was a lost cause, but he was hoping to turn Boba into at least a temporary ally. That seemed to work, particularly when Boba said he wanted justice and Plo Koon delivered the best line of the episode: "We are justice." Obviously, Boba was definitely still susceptible to this kind of persuasion. Of course, that didn't work right away, and Ahsoka had to step in and grab Aurra. That, by the way, was an awesome sequence. She was very smooth in both slicing off Aurra's antenna, and I think I saw a real look of fear in Aurra's eyes when Ahsoka grabber her. Later in the episode, Ahsoka once again proved herself when she jumped atop Slave I and started slicing up the ship. I also think I saw a look of regret in her eyes when she assumed she'd killed Aurra.
As a stand-alone episode, Lethal Trackdown had tons of great scenes. The fights in the underworld and on Florrum were exciting and fast-paced. The Hondo/Aurra romance angle, coupled with the element of "honor" that Hondo kept bringing up, gave us great character exposition for both bounty hunters. Plo Koon was very impressive, both with a lightsaber and with his words. Whether he was trying to calm down Aurra Sing or trying to teach Ahsoka, "Master Plo" proved himself to be a remarkable Jedi.
Apart from the plot and characters, this episode also provided us with great visuals and great music. The Coruscant underworld, which was explored more in TCW Season 2 than in any of the movies, looked incredible. We really got a great look at a place we've rarely seen before, despite it being just miles beneath the center of galactic politics. From the neon posters to the various alien species milling about, this episode did an excellent job of showing us a day in the life of an underworld dweller.
Like I said, this episode was great on its own. It tied things up nicely with the rest of the Boba Fett arc (despite not actually tying things up with either Boba or Aurra), and it gave us some closure on Boba Fett's pursuit of Mace Windu. There was the requisite brutal murder, as befits any episode with a ruthless character like Aurra Sing. As much as I hated to see Ponds die, the TCW writers did the right thing. It would be overkill (pardon the pun) to have Aurra eliminate all the Republic hostages, but I think we can all agree that Ponds's death made Aurra seem more serious, both to the Jedi and to us. Apart from combat and violence, this episode also had the sentimental, talkative moments that we've come to enjoy on TCW. Boba's dialog with Plo Koon and Mace Windu showed that he's still growing up, still learning what's right, what's wrong, and what lies in the grey area in between.
Apart from being its own episode and the conclusion of a three-part arc, Lethal Trackdown was also the season finale of The Clone Wars Season Two. The past twenty-two episodes have taken us across the galaxy in pursuit of villains familiar and new, and along the way our heroes have faced a myriad of challenges, from an obstinate Mandalorian queen to a horde of brain worms. I've been continually impressed by second-season episodes. There were high points and low points, for sure, but the animation quality has picked up dramatically and the TCW team continues to take the show's characters to new heights. Looking back at Season 1 reminds us of how far we've come, and how much farther we can go. I've had a blast reviewing episodes of TCW Season Two, and I eagerly await the day in Fall 2010 when the show returns to TV and I can start writing these reviews again.
Thanks for reading my reviews this season, and May The Force Be With You! --Eric Geller